On Thursday we transplanted three beds of brassicas – kale, napa cabbage, bok choy and kohlrabi. Then we covered these beds with row cover to protect the seedlings from pests (woodchucks, rabbits and flea beatles). As soon as the field dries out we’ll t’plant all the storage onions and leeks, and the first plantings of beets, scallions and lettuce.
I transplant almost all of the vegetables I grow. Transplanting, as opposed to direct seeding, has a number of benefits. First, it gives the veggies a size advantage in their competition with weeds. That’s important, especially given the galen soga and pigweed-filled seed bank on my acre. These weeds will quickly outgrow and crowd out vegetable crops, sharply reducing yield and greatly increasing the difficulty and time needed to harvest. Second, starting most of my seed indoors means I can start the season earlier than mother nature intended. That means the first fresh lettuce, beets, carrots, radishes, etc. will be eaten in May rather than June; tomatoes, eggplant and peppers in July, rather than August. Third, transplanting allows me to grow more vegetables because it shortens the amount of time (by around two weeks) each crop is taking up space in the field. For example, a lettuce seed takes around 45 days to grow into a full-sized head of lettuce if it’s sown directly in the field. A 4 week old lettuce seedling that is transplanted needs around 30 days in the ground. So, transplanting one bed of lettuce seedlings, rather than direct-seeding lettuce seeds, can free up two weeks of bed space. This season I will transplant 21 beds of lettuce, saving 42 weeks of bed space for other veggies.